July 13, 2024
Forrestville Dock

The Huge Forestville Dock and the Iron Chief Boat House

Very little is currently available online on this huge Forestville dock. So, we turned to some genealogical information to fill in the blanks. This is an excerpt from Forestville Mi Bicentennial History.

Forestville’s Huge Docks

The docks, or landings, built to handle lake shipping were maintained at a continual expense, but dockage, nonetheless, made a land-office business in the old days. The original Forestville docks were made of logs and cribs filled with stones, piling supporting the warehouse end of the pier. Their approaches were made down on the beach terrace, and neither of the docks ran straight out into the lake but stood at about a 15-degree angle from due east.

The number of docks destroyed by storm and ice is too many to enumerate, although both significant docks sustained severe damage in 1859, 1876, and again in 1883, when the north (or Green) pier lost one crib and a 50-foot portion of piling. The winter gales swept away the majority of both docks in 1885, and only the north dock was entirely rebuilt.

At the time of the 1871 fire, the “Ward” dock was being run by Jake Buel, the local lumber king. Jake and Eber B. Ward rebuilt the dock after the fire and operated it until about 1877.*

The Docks Were An Economic Hub

In 1878, it was reported that bulk shipments from the Ward dock were infrequent. 11,000 sacks of wheat, 3,000,000 shingles, 70,000 feet of timber, 11,500 cedar posts, and 1200 cords of fuel were among them.

Frank Buchkowki, who lumbered the west township, was a frequent visitor to the Ward dock. He shipped a quarter-million feet of lumber and 100,000 shingles in a single season.

In 1880, a new item revealed that Tom Ward of Charleston had a massive amount of lumber swept off Ward pier after a major storm.

Freight pilfering was a constant annoyance, especially when the young guys learned that beer or wine shipments were on their way.

In 1878, criminals attacked a Ward Dock warehouse and stole a large quantity of Tenant’s yard goods cargo. However, they also seized “a half-barrel of beer, 100 pounds of peanuts, and a case of cigars… Maybe for a successful celebration.

Docks were a Community Gathering Spot


The docks became the economic centers of the shore towns, but they were also a social center as well. In small communities ” going down to meet the boat” was a welcome adventure. The old docks were never equipped with railings and it is a wonder that more people didn’t fall into the lake. A few did, some of them drunk and one fellow rubbernecking at the ladies along the boat rail rode his bicycle right off the dock end. Tom Potts, the drayman, once back his team off the docks. He unhooked them and they swam ashore.

The old dock afforded a fishing pier for the whole community. As far as I can remember, only worms were ever used for bait. The old-timers that I remember sometimes treated them more effective minnows, but we did sometimes resort to gaffs “or grab hooks to snag big perch when the water was clear, and they ignored our worms. Fishing from rowboat was unnecessary while the long docks stood.

According to local legend, there was just one deadly accident. It happened in 1885 when William Merckel took his five-year-old son out on the Corrin docks to observe the enormous seas that were raging that day. A massive wave slammed into the docks, carrying the child overboard. Mr. Merckel swam around seeking for him until he was weary and had to be dragged in with a line and buoy.*

*Excerpted from the Forrestville Bicentennial History

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Paul Austin

Living in Michigan for almost 60 years has given me a lot of insight. I'm a contributing writer for Thumbwind Publications. His most recent project is developing edgy stories and content for Spice2Vice.com.

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One thought on “The Huge Forestville Dock and the Iron Chief Boat House

  1. My grandfather Ed BEZEMEK told stories of how you had to have a good team of horses that get back a load of grain all the way out to the ship he said it was supposed to be room to turn around but it was normally full of products

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